Star in Your Own Real Life Video Game
Words by Jennifer Simonson Photos by Eric Morales
Imagine you and your six friends are locked in an abandoned New York City subway station. You have one hour to find clues, solve a mystery and save the world from a madman. Your first order of business is to escape a shaking subway car. Once you do, you find yourself in an abandoned station. At the beginning of the adventure, you were told anything could be a clue to advance you to the next stage, so you and your friends scour the punk rock flyers taped to the walls, the trash discarded on the floor, and the graffiti spray-painted on the walls for clues.
Once a few clues have been found and puzzles have been solved, you stumble upon a hidden room. Inside is a ratty cot, a few locked filing cabinets, and a locked dresser. Newspaper articles about mind-control, diagrams mapping out the human soul, and global population maps cover the walls. Spray-painted near a drawing of a human eye are the words, “The Walls Are Listening.”
As the red digital clock on the wall ticks down, a frenzy sets in. You have to work with your teammates to unlock cabinets, dressers, and suitcases to solve questions like:
Who’s behind it? What are they trying to accomplish? Why are they doing this?
This virtual scenario is one of Austin’s newest escape rooms: the latest craze sweeping the nation for those wanting a physical group-gaming experience. Each escape room combines detail-oriented set designs, elaborate storytelling and adrenaline pumping themes to challenge gamers to find clues and solve puzzles needed to get out of the room in a limited amount of time. Beating the game could require the team to break out of jail, fight zombies or escape from a mad scientist’s lab. Dubbed as a real life video game, escape rooms provide a popular company team-building activity, birthday party fun, or a good time for a family get-together.
Escaping the subway station to save the world is Mind Spark’s Terminal, or the conspiracy room. It is one of four rooms located in an innocuous Northeast Austin warehouse. The creators of Mind Spark are the same guys behind Austin’s infamous, haunted House of Torment. The owners along with their creative team designed the escape rooms with the same realistic set-design, signature psychological thrills, and costumed actors who made House of Torment the number one haunted attraction in the country.
Terminal is the most complicated of the four escape rooms with a success rate of near 16 percent.
In the Houdini Room, the world famous magician’s widow needs help contacting her husband from beyond the grave. Gamers solve puzzles in attempt to make contact with the Houdini’s spirit before he’s gone forever. Participants locked in the Zombie Room must uncover clues and decipher riddles with a Zombie chained to the wall of the room with them. Every ten minutes the bloodthirsty Zombie’s chain is loosened, allowing him to stagger closer and closer to gamers. The ghost room, Geist Manor, is Austin’s only virtual-reality escape room. The ten-minute solo experience allows one to compete against a friend to see who can escape the haunted room first.
MindSpark’s newest room, Naughty List, challenges families to break into an elf’s workshop and erase their names from Santa’s naughty list before he returns. The kid-friendly game is opening sometime in October.